6 Oldest Literature Book in the World

6 Oldest Literature Book in the World

The world has seen millions of works of literature pass through it over the years, and millions of books as well. While some books have not managed to stand the test of time, there are a few pieces of literature in the form of books that have lasted thousands of years! In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the oldest literature books in the world. We’ll take a brief look at what those books are about, and where they are now. Let’s get right into it! 

6. Oldest Literature Books

6. The Gutenberg Bible

The time period of book’s origin: February 23, 1455
Current location: New York Public Library
Author: Johannes Gutenberg

The Gutenberg BiblePhoto Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Gutenberg Bible has played an important role in literature’s cultural history. In addition to being one of the world’s oldest works of literature, it is also one of the oldest books to have ever been printed. It marked the beginning of an age where books were printed in the West. The contents of this bible contain the Hebrew Old Testament in Latin, as well as the Greek New Testament.

This version of the Bible is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful printed books in the history of the world. It’s interesting to note that Johannes Gutenberg had created the technology that made moveable types efficient enough to mass-produce books.

Did you know?

Johannes Gutenberg called the book production process Das Werk der Bücher, which translates to “the work of the books”.

5. Celtic Psalter

The time period of book’s origin: 1000 CE 
Current location: Scotland
Author: Unknown

Celtic PsalterPhoto Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Celtic Psalter is one of the oldest literature books in both Scotland and the world! While not much is known about this book’s origins, it’s interesting to note that its bindings have changed over the years. Its current binding is over 100 years old, and was bound by Douglas Cockerell in 1914.

Although this book’s date show that it was written in the early 11th century, an analysis of the gold pigment used on its pages indicates that it might have been written even earlier. John Reid, who was the chancellor of Aberdeen was one of this book’s earliest owners. However, it has not been owned since, and it’s current whereabouts in Scotland are not widely known.

Did you know?

The Celtic Psalter most likely originated in a Scottish monastery in Iona.

4. The Book of Kells

The time period of book’s origin: 9th Century
Current location: The Library of Trinity College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin
Author: Celtic monks

The Book of KellsPhoto Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Book of Kells is one of the most beautiful literature books in the world! It is an illuminated manuscript that contains the four gospels from the New Testament. This book was put together in a Columban monastery, though researchers remain unclear about whether this monastery was located in Scotland or Ireland. 

It’s also worth noting that although historians remain uncertain about when this book was written, most of them believe that it was written during the early 9th century. The text in this book largely comes from the Vulgate, which is a Latin translation of the bible. The Book of Kells contains detailed illustrations and ornamentation. The designs within it combine Insular art and motifs with Catholic iconography.

Did you know?

The Book of Kells is available to view online, thanks to a group of experts that digitized the entire manuscript.

3. St. Cuthbert Gospel

The time period of book’s origin: 8th Century
Current location: British Museum and British Library
Author: Sir Roger Mynors

St. Cuthbert GospelPhoto Source: Wikipedia Commons

The St. Cuthbert Gospel is a pocket-sized gospel book that was written in the 8th century, in Latin. This book is just over 5 inches tall and 3 inches wide, and is one of the only leather-bound books in the world that has survived several centuries.

When researching this book, we were fascinated to learn that this book was actually buried with St. Cuthbert, and was unearthed several decades later, in the 12th century. This book has since been digitized, and is available for viewing online.

Did you know? 

The St. Cuthbert Gospel was named after Saint Cuthbert, an Anglo-Saxon saint who was from Lindisfarne, North East England.

2. Diamond Sutra

The time period of book’s origin: 5th Century
Current location: British Library
Author: Subhati

Diamond SutraPhoto Source: Wikipedia Commons

Diamond Sutra is one of the oldest literature books in the world that is currently being preserved in the British Library. This book was mostly likely written by Buddha’s pupil Subhati, and Subhati’s master, although researchers remain unclear about whether or not this statement is true.

The Diamond Sutra is a sutra that stems from the genre of Prajñāpāramitā, which translates to perfection of wisdom. It is known for being one of the world’s oldest sutras, and is also the oldest creative work in the world that was dedicated to the public.

Did you know? 

Diamond Sutra has a woodblock-printed version that is also on display at the British Library.

1. Madrid Codex

The time period of book’s origin: 900–1521 AD
Current location: Museo de América in Madrid
Author: Unknown

Madrid CodexPhoto Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Madrid Codex is one of the world’s oldest surviving books today. It is currently on display at the Museo de América in Madrid, although the book that is displayed is actually a well-crafted replica of the original! The reason that the original is not displayed is because it is too delicate to be exposed to the temperature and natural elements present in the room.

The Madrid Codex is one of three books from the Maya civilization. It was made from a long piece of amate paper, made from bark, and folded in the style of an accordion. The content within it consists of horoscopes and almanacs that Mayan priests used when performing divinatory rituals and ceremonies.

Did you know?

Although the Madrid Codex has survived several centuries, it was only discovered in the late 1860s!


In this article, we walked you through a list of six of the world’s oldest literature books. While these literature books are not necessarily considered to be a part of the literary canon or taught widely in schools, they remain an integral part of the larger world of literature. We encourage you to look them up and do further research on them as well!

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